Sunday, March 8, 2009

THE VOICE OF IDAHO AGRICULTURE™
By Frank Priestley, President

Animal Rights Organizations Amplify Anguish of Unwanted Horses
In yet another case of misguided activism, animal rights groups have put American taxpaying citizens out of work and helped create a cottage industry that brutalizes innocent animals.
We have a growing problem in this country with unwanted horses.

With the economy in the tank, high feed costs and expenses associated with euthanasia and disposal, many people can no longer afford to keep their horses. In addition, with an estimated U.S. horse population of 9.2 million head, at an average age of about 10 years, about 500,000 horses die or must be euthanized every year. It costs over $300 for veterinary and disposal fees to put a horse down.

These issues are contributing to the abandonment of old and unwanted horses on public land throughout the country. In addition most horse shelter and rescue operations are full to capacity. Until 2007, there were three horse processing plants operating in the U.S. These plants were federally inspected, humane operations that processed and packaged horse meat for export to many foreign countries where the meat is considered a delicacy.

However, thanks to the Humane Society of the United States, a group with radical views on animal rights that should not be confused with your local animal shelter, horse processing in the U.S. for human consumption was shut down in 2007. The Humane Society of the U.S. argues that horses are not generally considered a food animal and that they “endure extreme suffering” when sent to processing plants.

Legislators in Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and at least six other states are working on new laws in support of processing horse meat for export. The Utah Legislature recently passed a resolution supporting the transport of horses out of state to Mexico or Canada for processing. Legislatures in Arizona, Kansas and Minnesota are working on similar legislation, while lawmakers in Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri and Montana are working on legislation to bring horse processing facilities into existence.

In Congress, a bill that would prohibit transport of horses across U.S. borders for processing is pending. In addition there are several other bills before Congress that would criminalize nearly everything having to do with the processing of horse meat. However, at the present time there is no ban on processing horse meat for human consumption in the U.S., except in Texas and Illinois.

In 2007, 80,000 unwanted horses were shipped to Mexico or Canada for processing and export. In Mexico, the treatment of these animals is primitive, brutal and unregulated.

In our view, the use of processing plants is a humane way of disposing of surplus or unsound animals, and a much better alternative than abandonment where horses often starve or become a problem for someone else.

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